Thanksgiving Sermon

Hymns: 892, 822, 785, 933, 895
Readings: Psalm 65, Deuteronomy 26:1-11, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Luke 12:13-21

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today we have gathered in God’s house to give thanks to God for the many blessings we have received during this past year. I have heard from many who would prefer for 2020 to be over. Some have asked for a refund; others have said they want 2019 back; others just can’t wait for 2021. In light of the life-changing events surrounding COVID-19, many find it difficult to give thanks for what has happened during this past year.

There’s an old saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” A silent wheel does its job and no one notices. How many have given thanks for those silent wheels that just simply do their job? And how many silent wheels are there out there? We probably do not give thanks very often for electricity, but when it goes out, we are quick to notice. The same could be said of cellular or Internet service. The silent sun performs its duty day in and day out, bringing light and heat to the Earth. There are silent workers who perform their jobs—often in great danger—and their work benefits us greatly, but we hardly notice. Consider those whose jobs place them under the daily threat of exposure to the virus, such as teachers, doctors and nurses, even janitors, plumbers, electricians, retail workers, grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, hotel workers, truck drivers, farmers, and so on. When they silently do their job well, even under risky conditions, we hardly notice and rarely give thanks. When they make a mistake, we notice and are too quick to object or complain.

And our attention is often given to those squeaky wheels. These are the loud people or situations in our lives that grab our attention and often diminish our happiness or satisfaction. The members of our bodies are hard at work to sustain our bodies. But when we stub our toe, injure our back, or bite our cheek, suddenly we give all our attention that squeaky wheel. Forgetting that almost everything is going right, we dwell on that one thing that is going wrong.

And in dwelling on that one thing that is wrong, we become agitated, dissatisfied, and ungrateful. Our lips, which God made to proclaim His praises, become filled with unthankful words.

Why are we so swift to complain, find fault, or even condemn? Why do we find it so difficult to give thanks, contently fulfill our vocations as difficult as they may be, or freely forgive?

I think our Lord’s parable in Luke gives us a clue in answering these questions. Here you have a rich man whose land produced plentifully. His crop was so abundant he didn’t know where to put it all. Evidently giving some of it to those who are in need did not cross his mind. He determined to tear down his barns and build bigger ones, so that he can store his grain and all his goods. He also resolved that he would spend the upcoming years living what he thought was the good life—relaxing, eating, drinking, and being merry.

Do you see what he was doing? He was looking out for the Number 1 in his life—himself. He gave no attention to others; he didn’t even care about them. He was so self-absorbed he forgot who he was—a sinner in need of Christ’s forgiveness—a child of God—one who could have had even better riches with the Gospel. In fact, he said “I” six times in just three verses, said “my” five times, and referred to himself in other ways an additional three times! In just 3 verses, he referred to his god of “me, myself, and I” 14 times! When we center our lives on our own selves, our thanksgiving is deficient.

When growing up, I loved Thanksgiving. I loved going to Grandma’s and enjoying the company and the food. Even though I was taught about the Pilgrims and the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving, I never really thought about our modern celebration of Thanksgiving. It was another wonderful family get-together with lots of food as the focal point. Then as I grew older and became more interested in stuff, looking for bargains on Black Friday became a new highlight. But in these last years, I have often wondered something. Are we really demonstrating our thankfulness when we are stuffing ourselves silly? Is there any way in which we are truly being thankful when we are gorging on seconds or thirds with multiple desserts afterward? Let me dare to ask, wouldn’t fasting be a better way to give thanks? Or at least eating only until we are comfortably full. By doing so, we would be taking the attention off of pleasing our tastebuds and bellies and begin to remember those who are going without. We may even begin to identify with those who are forced to fast—and do so with thanksgiving. Consider those prisoners of war who have had to go without, the poor who have little despite their earnest attempts to fulfill their needs, the abused and the neglected. Consider those who have been caught up in lifestyles that they cannot shake or change, such as the addicted, the handicapped, and the vulnerable.

Our nation has been blessed beyond measure, both with the freedoms we enjoy and prosperity that’s all around us. Above all, we have been blessed above measure with the ability to gather in God’s house and receive His gifts without persecution or hinderance. God calls on us to give thanks. And our own country has set aside a day for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving. It’s an interesting compound word. Thanks. Giving. Not Thanks-taking. But giving. Tonight’s readings are the ones the Church has used at harvest festivals. They all remind us a key aspect in giving thanks—that God’s people are a giving people.

We return thanks to God, for He was generous to us first. He made us and all creatures. He gave us our bodies and our possessions. He made us each unique and gave us each talents and abilities. When He saw us in our sinful condition, He sent His only-begotten Son to save us. He forgives us and redeems us of all unrighteousness. He blesses us with His love, and gives us everything. We are His. We have been blessed beyond measure. We are forgiven in Christ.

As a token of our appreciation, we give back to God of our first fruits and we be of service to our neighbor. We do not figure out how we can keep on expanding our wealth, but how we can keep on loving our neighbor by being of service to them.

Many feared that 2020 would make them paupers through the job losses and markets crashing. While we do grieve with those who still have not obtained employment and strive to help them and we also grieve with those who have lost loved ones due to the pandemic, the reality is God has been with us all the way. The markets have recovered, the crop this year was excellent in our area, and the fatality rates from COVID-19 are far lower than originally estimated. Granted, this pandemic is not over, nor is this year. But God has certainly shown His mercy each and every day. He is still with us. His Word still has free course among us. We have always had access to Holy Communion. God has blessed us immensely.

And so we receive His blessings with joy and thanksgiving! And we give God thanks for all those silent wheels all around us that are hard at work in our daily lives. We give thanks for our Savior who paid for our sins on the cross. Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen